Maryland’s highest court on Friday reinstated Serial podcast subject Adnan Syed’s 20-year-old murder conviction, denying him a new trial for the death of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
The Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling reverses last year’s decision by a lower court. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals voted 2-1 in favor of a new trial for Syed in March 2018 because his lawyer during his initial trial, Cristina Gutierrez, provided insufficient counsel by failing to call an alibi witness, Asia McClain Chapman.
The Court of Appeals said that though it agreed Syed’s counsel was deficient, it did not influence the outcome of his trial because the evidence against him was strong.
“Given the totality of the evidence the jury heard, we conclude that there is not a significant or substantial possibility that the verdict would have been different had trial counsel presented the alibi witness,” Judge Clayton Greene Jr. wrote in the majority opinion.
In 2000, a jury convicted Syed of the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend, Lee, who was 18 at the time. The case drew national attention in 2014 when it became the subject of a podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig.
Syed’s case gained new scrutiny ― much of it in the form of armchair detective work ― after it was featured in the 2014 season of “Serial,” a mega-popular podcast by “This American Life” producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig.
Syed had appealed his conviction, arguing that his previous attorney Cristina Gutierrez failed to question key alibi witness Asia McClain, according to the Sun. His conviction was vacated by a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court. Last year, an intermediate appeals court upheld the decision to grant him a new trial.
But the state’s supreme court ultimately decided against it, with an order to reverse the judgment by the Baltimore City Circuit Court.
HBO’s four-part series, “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” is set to begin on Sunday.
Image: Adnan Syed, pictured in 1999, had his murder conviction reinstated Friday